when the house is finally quiet

Someone is always home sick: chicken pox, strep throat, another chicken pox, stomach flu…Baby Bliss sits on her hip. It is only later that week, perhaps, when the house is finally quiet, the dishwasher humming in the downstairs dark, her husband not yet home, and upstairs the kids are asleep or at least pretending. When she is finally in the soft light of her own bedroom with her hair brushed and her face clean, sinking into the down pillows with something to read, she arrives in a moment that is her own and not in relation to anything else—not a carpool, a nursing infant, nor a man she loves. She is self-contained, not only a woman but the sole measure of her own life.

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)

 


Notes:

Joy Enough

I loved my mother, and she died. Is that a story?

Story is giving a character a tangible desire, then putting things in her way. A writer I was falling in love with told me that. My desire is for my mother to live. More tangible, he says.

My desire is not to forget. More tangible, he says. Then my desire is for her to meet the next man I love, the one I keep now that I know a thing or two. My desire is for her to see my round silhouette in a summer dress, then to hold my baby in the delivery room. In winter, my desire is to make chili with the mixture of garden tomatoes and hot peppers she calls hell that I’ve kept in the back of my freezer. Our desires are equally impossible: to freeze hell, to thaw it; to reverse time, to stop it. My desire is to have more of what I do not need, seconds of what has been my fair share: a fight, a car ride, a cup of coffee, ignored advice straight from the mouth of a grade A know-it-all.

Or none of this. My desire is preservation, to carry her lodged beneath my breast like a bone.

~ Sarah McColl, opening lines in her new book: “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)

 

Dinner (w Family)

The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.

– C.S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory

 


Photo: Gabriel Maglieri with “Family

Dad’s Favorite Song (29 sec)

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

~ From “Ooh La La” by The Faces

when the decorations come down from the attic, time goes both ways at once

Every year when the decorations come down from the attic, time goes both ways at once…

All day long I’m surrounded by reminders of nearly a quarter-century in this house. Who I am and who I’ve been, and who everyone else I love has been…

Then the Christmas boxes come down from the attic, and time extends backward even further, beyond this house, and forward to a future in which the broadest outlines are already clear though the details are still unknown. Getting down the Christmas decorations is always a reminder of eternity, that unfamiliar space where past and present and future exist simultaneously — a space I can enter, even figuratively, only at Christmastime.

Here is the ornament in the shape of a baseball player from my husband’s boyhood years. Here is the little felt-covered drum my mother helped me make from a paper-towel roll. Here are the blown-egg ornaments my high school Secret Santa left in my locker and the gold-and-silver Benson & Hedges box a college friend hung on the tree in my first college apartment. Here are the metal lapel pins that proved I’d paid for admission at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the only “decorations” I could scrounge up when I was in graduate school. Here are the twisted-tin icicles my husband and I bought at a craft fair the year before we got married, already looking ahead to our own first tree. Here’s the little marionette Santa my mother-in-law won as a door prize at a Parkinson’s support group just before what turned out to be her last Christmas.

Most precious of all are the homemade ornaments from my children’s preschool years: messy, often unrecognizable figures — is that an archangel or Medusa? Rudolph or Popsicle-stick conceptual art? We hang them on the tree every year, ugly as some of them indisputably are. They remind my husband and me of that brief time in our family’s life when there was still someone at home small enough to jump up and down, clapping with glee, when the Christmas tree lights came on for the first time, even if it was only a test and the lights were spread out across the floor or still tangled together at the bottom of a cardboard box…

Last year when I packed up the Christmas decorations, I set aside our oldest son’s homemade ornaments in a separate box. He is on his own now, and I know the day is coming when he will have his own tree to decorate, his own holiday traditions to establish. He didn’t put up a tree this year, so his father and I are still keeping them safe, but we are also ready for whatever comes next.

For now those ornaments are back in their old familiar places, hanging alongside all the other reminders that the people who are gone from us are never truly gone, that the little boys hopping up and down with excitement are still somewhere inside the grown men who can set that homely angel in her place at the top of the tree without even straining to reach.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “The Christmas Time Capsule” (The New York Times, December 24, 2018)
 

Photo Credit

Come and Get Your Love

Volume Up! How great is this! ‘Tis the Season.


Notes: 1) Lori, thank you for sharing! 2) Post title from lyrics and music by Redbone: Come and Get Your Love (1974) (Don’t miss their video on Soul Train)

I love the dawn stillness (on Thanksgiving Day)

light-night-house-family

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Notes: Photo: Mennyfox55

Share Your Gifts


New Apple holiday film tells a story of a girl who is bursting with ideas but is afraid to share them.  Music: Billie Eilish with come out and play

Riding I-95 North and South. Empty Nest. (Not)

It’s 1:35 a.m. I’m up. What’s that kid’s tune? How does it go? Head and shoulders knees and toes. Knees and toes. I wiggle my toes, roll over in bed to my other side. Beyond fatigue. Restless. It all aches. Get up and write about it.

560 miles. 4.5 hours down on I-95 S to Washington, D.C. 5.25 hours back in heavy traffic.  Three hours in between clearing out Eric’s apartment and filling a U-haul. Who said girls accumulate more sh*t than guys? Clothes. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Box Spring. Mattress. Headboard. Television. Couch. Chair. Dresser. Boxes and more boxes and more boxes. Five flights of stairs. I’m too old for this sh*t.

It started at 5:15 a.m. yesterday. No, that’s not correct. We moved him in almost 2 years to the day. Job in DC. Girlfriend in D.C. Followed by break-up with girlfriend four months ago. No reason given. We loved her. He bristled upon any query. Someone who had become a welcome addition to the Family, Gone. Sad, really.

And it was but a few weeks after we learned of the break-up (via Facebook status change), Dad started in on his Son.

Your job enables you to live anywhere? Why sink $2,000 into rent every month?

Your Mom would love for you to come home.

We’ll get a puppy, really, if you come home.

I’ll knock the wall out between your old room and your sister’s room. You’ll have a giant suite!

Think of the money you’ll save if you move back home. You’ll be able to afford that travel you so love to do.

Did you talk to your Boss about changing your base location to NY?

Are you still paying $2,000 a month rent? On your salary, how do you save any money? [Read more…]

Running in Michigan. With a stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.

71° F. An intermittent breeze blows off Lake Superior.  Upper Michigan…a half step slower in pace, and a full step-and-a-half ahead in balance.  With skies so blue, clouds so white, water and air so clean, you can taste the Pure emblazoned on the license plates on the cars that pass me by.

I run under the bridge which towers overhead. Rail cars roll out on the ore docks.  A massive freighter sits silently waiting for the iron ore pellets to fall down the chutes into its belly. One can’t pass this scene and not be filled with Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of Edmund of Fitzgerald:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

I enter Presque Isle Park. I’m hearing horns through my ear buds. Can’t be.  I tuck my earbuds into my pocket and follow the tune. A man, in his 70’s, in a kilt, stands in the woods with his bagpipes – he’s alone and belting out Scotland the Brave. Goosebumps pop on my forearms. I must have Scotland in the gene pool, must have.

Genes. Family history. Family trees. DNA testing. The purpose of this family get-together was to celebrate my Father-in-Law discovering his full Sister on a genetic service. What’s bigger than meeting a sister you never knew you had? [Read more…]

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